Black Ocean Audio | PAF 2023

black ocean audio

A couple of my colleagues were discussing the “good rooms” at the 2023 Pacific Audio Fest, and they started talking about the “kid” from Black Ocean Audio. The tone of that conversation definitely took on that that-crazy-kid-is-onto-something vibe, so the next time I passed by the room I headed inside for yet another old codger take.

Words and Photos by Marc Phillips

The “kid” behind Black Ocean Audio is Nick Tarnofsky, a guitarist and engineer, and he offers a series of modular loudspeakers that are made from sustainable hardwoods such as American walnut and Mahogany. (If you know me, you know I’m enchanted by speakers with solid wood enclosures–the resulting tonality seems to always be to my taste.)

paf 2023

When I say that Black Ocean Audio is modular, I’m talking about a speaker line that starts with a two-way bookshelf monitor named Le Chiffre (I assume Nick is a Bond fan). Le Chiffre starts at just $4,500/pr USD and can be supercharged with such options as outboard crossovers and upgraded components. You can then add The Pale King, a bass module that fits under Le Chiffre for an additional $5,500/pr. That’s what I found in the Black Ocean Audio room, paired with VTL monoblocks. (There is also a smaller monitor, the Nick Nack, which sells for $3,000/pr.)


It didn’t take long for me to discover that yes, this crazy youngster had come up with a very musical design. In fact, my enigmatic notes from the room say “ticking boxes,” and I can only assume that I meant this system was delivering all of the things I need from a hi-fi system such as an open, relaxed and composed sound.

Overall, this was a stunning introduction to Nick Tarnofsky and Black Ocean Audio and yes, he’s really onto something with these speaker designs. The price is fair, the sound is excellent and the look is gorgeous. Pay attention to this brand in the future.

black ocean audio

black ocean audio

pacific audio fest


1 Comment

  1. So stoked to see Nick featured here. I’ve followed this development and it’s been amazing to see what he’s created!

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